LAWRENCE KS – President Barack Obama continues to urge lawmakers to help him close the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Since Obama first came into office, he has made a vow to permanently close the prison. In his most recent speech, Obama declared it was time to change course.
“For many years it’s been clear that the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay does not advance our national security, it undermines it,” said President Obama.
Donald Haider-Markel, Professor and Chair of the Department of political science, said the surrounding issues involve the placement of the remaining detainees.
“The goal is basically in shutting down Guantanamo is to find a long term solution for the detainees we don’t believe that we can release to third countries safely,” said Haider-Markel.
With less than a year left of presidency, Obama hopes to finalize his long-standing promise to close Guantanamo bay before his term ends. George W. Bush opened the facility in 2002, where roughly 800 men were originally detained there.
Since 2009, Obama has transferred 147 prisoners from Guantanamo bay to countries overseas. Though, many of the detainees remaining are expected to be brought to U.S. facilities. However, many republicans, democrats, and the senate oppose this plan in fear of the potential danger.
“They argue that this will increase the threat of attack from groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda within the United States not only at that facility but generally against the United States,” said Haider-Markel.
Presidential candidates such as ted Cruz and Donald Trump have vocally opposed this plan as well, and even mentioning the expansion of the prison if they were to be elected.
Haider-Markel said that if these detainees were to come to the United States, they would potentially be eligible to be brought before a civilian criminal court and have charges brought against them. However, there’s the potential that the evidence to bring a case forward wouldn’t be substantial enough where the individuals could be released by a civilian court.
“It’s very unlikely anything will happen before the end of Obama’s term and I would expect no matter who’s elected next president that you’re not going to see much movement on closing Guantanamo in the next couple of years,” said Haider-Markel.
It is still unsure whether Obama will close the prison using his own executive powers if congress rejects his plan. Obama is scheduled to visit Cuba next month as he continues to implement his plan to close the facility.